Alumni Feature
──Fighting a Battle for Educational Ideals • Alumna Queenie Cheung

A nice kindergarten teacher who had been very fond of Alumna Queenie Cheung inspired her to put down "teacher" in a primary one composition – What do you want to become when you grow up? She got what she wished for.

Ties with HKIEd
When she graduated from secondary school and faced the choice of relevant courses offered by Hong Kong Institute of Vocational Education (IVE), The Hong Kong Institute of Education (HKIEd) and Hong Kong Baptist University (HKBU), people expressed surprise when she preferred the Institute to the University. To study in education HKIEd would be her first choice, the reason was pure and simple. Beginning from her first Qualified Kindergarten Teacher Programme (QKT), the Institute has lived up to expectations. Apart from instilling educational theory into the mind of students, during practicum in both semesters instructors followed up on the progress of individual students with not just comprehensive care but also appropriate advice in terms of teaching and matters in dealing with the school. What was more, the teachers were approachable and loved their students, were willing to talk with them and even dine with them trying to establish good teacher-student relationship. Ever since enrolling in the HKIEd programme, the ties could not be undone. In eight years’ time, four programmes were undertaken: QKT, Certificate in Early Childhood Education, B.Ed. (Early Childhood Education) and currently M.A. in Educational Counselling. Her dogged perseverance in the field of early childhood education, in the pursuit of professional knowledge and her own value is obvious.

From Early Childhood Education to Education Counselling
To this day, she still bears in mind the original intentions for her choice, made out of a strong sense of vocation. She loves children, she believes she can help them and does what she wants to do – making a dream job come true. Most people think that a kindergarten teacher’s job is easy, that young children are easy to teach, that holidays are long and benefits package excellent. The truth is: while there are schools which hold on firmly to educational ideals in early childhood education, a local kindergarten has the tendency of turning out to become a pre-primary-one school which puts its mind to pushing up the difficulty level in homework owing to keen competition among kindergartens and demands from some parents who play strong emphasize on academic performance. A kindergarten should be a place where children learn to develop social skills, discipline and good conduct. A conscientious teacher will never be satisfied in becoming a teaching machine with the sole purpose of chasing after the syllabus, children will need to be encouraged to cooperate during classwork so as to squeeze out a bit of much-valued time for game, play and relaxation. Kindergarten teachers need to prepare lesson plans, decorate the classroom and cope with teaching quality assessments, they also need to study. She noticed kindergarten teachers who are married with children found little time to take good care of their own children!

The Nursery School where she is teaching accepts young children with special educational needs (SEN) referred by the Social Welfare Department. In a school where the actual teacher-and-student ratio is 1:15, how does a teacher cope with it? Queenie has studied in a minor programme in Special Education. She pointed out that this special teacher has to design an Individualized Educational Plan (IEP) for every child with SEN, taking into account language, social and emotional, cognitive, gross motor, fine motor and coping skills development of training and assessment. Patience is essential. At the same time, daily self-reflection is needed after school. Did I give encouragement to the children for what they did? Today, did I show impatience towards the children? Did I not speak with a considerate tongue or even worse have I hurt a sensitive soul? A teacher should observe carefully the progress of student growth. Despite heavy workload, a teacher should be willing to spend time to help parents recognize and understand the needs of their children. After communicating with parents and where necessary, referral for appropriate departments and services should be arranged.

After more contact with parents and real-life cases, she came to realize that behind every child's learning, performance, moods and behavior lay the impact of family/personal growth factors and parent/child relationship. On the other hand, having experienced bereavement after the loss of a family member, she found counselling greatly pacify her negative emotion with strong soothing effect. It prompted her to pursue further studies in educational counselling to have a better understanding of parents’ and children’s emotional needs. It helps her to take better care of her students and to support her school in this area.

Volunteering in Counselling
Currently, Queenie is also helping out in a special group for the Hong Kong Community Chest funded “My Sky – Career Development for Persons with Autistic Spectrum Disorder 2014—2017”, which is designed for 15 - 30 year-olds with High-functioning autism (HFA) as a pilot programme. It is hoped that the provision of life planning, career development, vocational training and supported employment service can help them plan for their future career or tertiary education; equip them with proper attitudes, life skills and daily living habits; improve their social and communication skills; and strengthen their support systems. She is responsible for arranging youth activities. For her, although this group of clients she serves is in a different age and background, what she has learned in educational counselling calls for the same kind of commitment.

Values in Education
Looking back on six years of pre-school teaching experience, what motivates her to continue in her efforts remains to be the purity and innocence in children. What the children said to her often touched her heart – “You cut your hair today! You look so pretty!” “Are you not feeling uncomfortable? Shall I take you to a doctor?" Such moments made her day. She is very grateful for the role she plays in the process of children’s growth and development. She admitted that her life experience has been greatly enriched with stronger enthusiasm in early-childhood education after becoming a teacher. Queenie never stops asking herself – what kind of teacher do I want to become? Should I just impart knowledge or should I see to it that teacher and students grow together? Finally, she would like reminding her peers in the field of early childhood education this - nurturing of the next generation is in our hands, and children need to develop good character when still young. – We better always keep asking ourselves: do you work only for a job, or do you still consider yourself working for education?